March 2011 sees the centenary of International Women’s Day. It’s also Women’s History Month and the date for Women World Day of Prayer. Last night I gave the address at the latter event in my village. In the past, I’ve sometimes been a bit dismissive of such things, thinking what’s the point? Not in terms of having women-focused events (as a feminist, I strongly feel the need for more of what you might call ‘consciousness raising’ about gender inequality and other issues), but in terms of an event that doesn’t seem to ‘do’ much – neither particularly geared to fundraising nor having a politicized objective. But last night, I got it. I don’t know whether it was the service itself, or the general atmosphere, or simply my changing views on life as I get older, but I felt such a strong sense of solidarity with the women of Chile who had created the service. I felt a bond with them, a level of mutual respect and understanding that I didn’t have before last night. And perhaps more poignantly, I felt a sense of solidarity and friendship with many of the women in my village – women who’s lives are very different to mine, but many of whom I’ve know since childhood – a dinner lady from primary school, a school friend’s mum, my old Brown Owl, a woman who was friends with my grandmother. I could give a theoretical analysis of why – from my research, I know all about the importance of women-only spaces – but I won’t. I will just say that there was a bond and it was beautiful.

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